Research Problem and Purpose
The repositioning of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and cultural heritage (CH) in our society has become a necessity in promoting traditional practices to innovatively solve current challenges like sustainable resource management, health, education and more, including identity building in a globalised world. Considering the differences in knowledge systems it is of outmost importance to completely comprehend IK within its context to harvest its full potential. However, IK holders have mostly been demoted to informants only rather than co-researchers, co-educators or co-designers. Thus current digitalisation efforts of IK have used an extreme reductive approach in only partially recording and storing IK in ill-defined static databases and a minimalistic technical style has contributed to a lack of wider dissemination, poor awareness in the general public and lack of interest to IK and CH from the emerging young population (e.g. turnout in museums is generally very low) While on the other hand digital CH preservation is increasingly exploring emerging interactive human-centred technologies appealing to the broader public through enhanced knowledge and augmented experience.
Research Aim and Themes
The aim is to revitalise Indigenous Knowledge through emerging technologies, beyond digital preservation. This will be achieved with a major focus on three themes:
- Enhancement of Current Digital IK Preservation Processes
The process of IK preservation including collection, curation, and dissemination is considered to be a democratic, participatory and ongoing societal activity especially for new digital citizens such as IK holders themselves. Thus, special tools are co-developed to ensure participation of IK holders and the wider crowd. Considering the opportunities that new computing paradigms and technologies, such as mobile phones, augmented and virtual realities as well as location-based and other ICT platforms (crowd-sourcing, -funding, - voicing) offer, IK will be curated, represented and disseminated in various novel and potentially unlimited interactive ways that enrich user experience, thereby attracting a wider audience.
- Promoting indigenous Voices in Technology Design Projects
We are following a community-based co-design approach, which involves IK holders and consumers as active technology design partners. Thereby integrating of traditional thinking patterns, worldviews, and values with new generations’ expectations and needs of innovative and novel technology experiences is assured.
- Combining the Digital and Analogue World
The integration of analogue artefacts in the digital world and digital elements in the analogue world(s) is an unsolved problem. Our research concentrates on the development of techniques and tools to solve some of the problems. This includes the development of natural interfaces and best-practice examples.
The research and development is of outmost importance to Namibia and the globe as it ensures that IK holders become part of the global knowledge economy and that marginalised groups re-position themselves within socio-economic, scientific and technological advancements. Having established long term collaborations with the communities as well as international partners the local team is continuously supporting community development and capacity building in the field. Significant outputs are adequate tools and methods co-designed with the indigenous communities thereby ensuring that IK epistemologies are accounted for in the newly created technologies.
Another major contribution will be the development of interactive, engaging and persuasive computing systems, such as location-based, augmented, mixed and virtual realities, thereby attracting a wider and younger audience to IK and CH.
- National Indigenous Knowledge Management System (2015-2020):
A collaborative project of NUST and UNAM, funded by the NCRST, to support a national survey of IK. Under the project digital data collection tools are developed and used, a national database is developed and all data from all regions are collected and processed.
- Communities’ Indigenous Knowledge Management Systems (2008 - 2030):
The project’s focus has been on the research and development of digital tools to enable indigenous knowledge holders to collect, curate and transfer indigenous knowledge. Novel approaches to heritage preservation have been developed, such as 3D visualisations and crowdsourcing. Community-based co-design has been established as a methodological contribution to the field. Current efforts centre on transferability, national scaling, crowdsourcing and community interaction protocols. The project has been funded by the then Polytechnic of Namibia, the bilateral grants between Namibia and South Africa and by the NCRST, respectively. (www.indiknowtech.nust.na)
- Computer Science and cultural Institutions (CSCI) (2015-2016):
Funded by the NCRST, this multi-project group explores how interactive digital media and cultural systems and creative industry can mutually create new learning and educational value beyond their current perceived roles of entertainment. Focusing on physical CH artefacts in natural environment (e.g. Twyfelfontein, Brandberg, etc.) and in museums, art galleries, and exhibitions its main objective is to encourage young people in attaining knowledge that is preserved in these cultural sites, thereby building new behaviour towards CH. Early versions of persuasive computing models including VR, AR and other display systems for cultural, touristic and creative industry have been explored and developed, including computer games, game-based learning models and systems, multimedia systems for museums, galleries, exhibitions and (craft) shops. Potential applicability for RandD for interactive multimedia systems for cultural and creative industries will are explored.
Indigenous Knowledge Management Systems- Prof Heike Winschiers Theophilus
Project: Co-designing technologies with indigenous communities (NCRST IK & SCIONA projects)
- Prof Heike Winschiers Theophilus; Mr Gereon Koch Kapuire
- Dr Colin Stanley;
- Mr Peter Gallert;
- Dr Edmore Chikohora